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This morning, the mug shot of a woman arrested for prostitution in Wayne County was plastered on Facebook and Twitter.  The comments below her picture:

“Ive been drunk once or twice, however, never THAT drunk!”

“Did men actually pay for that??????”

“she looks like she regularly makes excellent life choices”

“Looks like she banged her head one time too many on the headboard”

Mug ShotThe woman’s arrest appeared in the news after the Wayne County Sheriff sent out a press release. In recent weeks, the Monroe County Sheriff has sent out two press releases about prostitution sweeps in Henrietta. Mug shots of the women were similarly displayed on news websites and social media, as well as in some news broadcasts.

While there’s no question prostitution is illegal and the arrests are public information, there are several reasons police and the media may want to rethink how they report on this issue.

A lot of people are arrested for a lot of things on a daily basis without press releases alerting the media. Rochester police don’t send out releases on prostitution arrests. So why do the Monroe and Wayne Sheriffs offices think prostitutes are so newsworthy? Furthermore, where are the mug shots of the johns and pimps?

There is a movement in New York to treat prostitutes as victims. They are often sexually abused and assaulted. They are often addicted to drugs. There are special courts set up to deal with their charges, while also helping them regain their lives.

Police and the media haven’t caught on. Cops still send out these press releases and the media still parrot them without question. News organizations have policies about not reporting the names of sexual abuse victims, so it’s worth asking why they’re so comfortable showing the mug shots of prostitutes. At the very least, news outlets could be asking themselves what purpose this kind of reporting serves.

I understand that prostitution is not a victimless crime. The women who sell their bodies are hurt. In the case of streetwalkers, the neighborhoods where they do business are hurt. Underage girls and boys are being trafficked in the sex trade.

But most of the reporting of these press releases appears to nothing more than the salacious shaming of downtrodden women.


Links of the Day:


– A TV reporter writes about his struggle with mental illness.He also discusses how the media does a bad job reporting on mental health.

– Bob Duffy regrets leaving Rochester “when he did” and insists Buffalo didn’t really get a billion dollars.

– Suburban school districts spend nothing on parent engagement. RCSD spends millions. Some say that’s not enough.

– 7 things to know about Common Core tests, which start this week. Also, these tests count for teachers, but not students.

– How the wine industry spread across New York state and grew into a $4.8 billion business.

17 Responses to Shaming Prostitutes

  1. March 31, 2014 at 9:38 am John Kennedy responds:

    Here here!

  2. March 31, 2014 at 9:39 am John Kennedy responds:

    after a quick googling: Hear, hear!*

  3. March 31, 2014 at 9:39 am Phillip Borrelli responds:

    I completely agree with you.

  4. Exactly! I think it’s terrible because what if these women have children in school. It’s hard enough for them to struggle with their demons but to add public shame. Some people will have trouble recovering from that stigma. Wayne and Monroe Shame on you 🙁

  5. March 31, 2014 at 10:34 am Tony Mittiga responds:

    Thanks for presenting the story about “coming out” on mental illness. I think “crazy”, and mentally ill are usually conflated. Crazy meaning wildly eccentric, irrational, unable to manage essential aspects of daily living. Mental illness can include “crazy”, but most often is not obvious, and can be present in average, successful, and super successful individuals.

  6. March 31, 2014 at 11:55 am theodore kumlander responds:

    I would have to disagree with the D&C article about the RCSD getting Parents involved. it states ” Where there are no miracle solutions” In my 32 years with the RCSD I saw plenty of hucksters and grifters. Who had Miracle Solutions for everything from the lighting in the class rooms to wearing badges with 4 different colored dots on them to show your personality type.

    Then there was TMA the Time Management Seminars everyone had to attend it was supposed to solve all problems.

    Last week the Charter School snake oil salesmen were in town trying to hustle the school board with help of their new friend Lovely Warren. This to shall pass and a new hustle will take it’s place sold by the same old hustlers.

    So be of good cheer the RCSD is drowning in Miracle Solutions.

  7. “At the very least, news outlets could be asking themselves what purpose this kind of reporting serves.”

    Mugshots are sophomoric voyeurism. Publishing them serves no positive purpose.

  8. March 31, 2014 at 12:35 pm dew4794 responds:

    This issue of the police records for prostitutes being published in the newspapers, media, web is sham. Its about a male-macho military institution showing how they are “cleaning up the town.” Male and female police don’t want to pose as prostitutes to sting johns and tricks, so arresting johns is an enforcement low priority. And this is a revolving door for the courts. So nothing gets accomplished.

  9. March 31, 2014 at 12:52 pm Ken Warner responds:

    Good work, Rach!

  10. I agree – I also feel the entire country needs to have a real discussion about sex workers, their roles, their lives, how they are viewed by society, legality issues, etc.

  11. March 31, 2014 at 10:48 pm Orielly responds:

    Does not an alcoholic have a sickness? Do they not have families and kids? Are they not in some how or way victims of a alcohol based society?

    And when they are arrested for Drunk Driving and their mug shots are carried by the press the difference with them and prostitute’s picture injustice is? One are mostly women, and the other mostly men?

    Proponents of Charter schools are ‘snake oil salesmen?

    Having an child about to enter 1st grade in the fall, a city parent would be a fool if not stupid, to pick an RCSD school over most charter schools. How many years / decades of a failing RCSD does it take to have the “snake oil salesmen’s product look good? How many generations of RCSD kids do we waste while the current system get things on the right path? ITs been over 40yrs now!
    For most objective viewers, the RCSD gig was up 20yrs ago.

    Simply amazing that after 8 years of Bush voting for a “Change” in the PREZ was SO compelling to most DEM voters.
    Yet in the RCSD with kids future on the line, and there is no doubt regarding a failed system, NO vote for “Change” of the EDU / RCSD system is warranted? And those that propose a change are called “snake oil salesman.”

    Good to go with a name call though. A debate on the facts and results of the RCSD would have you on the losing side. There is no logical defense of keeping things the way they are in the RCSD. And, the more major change brought to the RCSD, the better.

  12. April 1, 2014 at 11:40 am Lincoln DeCoursey responds:

    Street prostitutes tend to move in circles comprised of other prostitutes, drug cooks and dealers, professional shoplifters, and various other street hustlers. Posting a prostitute’s photo to the news is unlikely to successfully shame her since her only acquaintances don’t read the newspaper or use the Internet, and are already quite clear that she is a prostitute.

    Higher-end prostitutes such as those who meet dates via online communities and work by appointment only may perhaps be shamed by public disclosure if they are leading dual lives. In my mind, the purpose of putting mugshots and arrests in the news is to deter future crime. It’s something you’re supposed to see happen to other people and give you real pause before doing crime yourself.

    You mention that there is a movement afoot to view prostitutes as victims. Such movements may involve conflating prostitution with human trafficking. There is also a movement afoot to remake prostitution as “sex work” and to view it as a legitimate occupation. Some people who work in this occupation do so quite openly, in some cases posting facial photos in their online ads. Another group that’s not likely to be shamed.

    Bottom line: the reason why prostitution arrests are more newsworthy in the suburbs and in rural areas than in the city is the obvious one. Crime is not as pervasive and arrests are less common. It becomes more feasible to cover low-level arrests in outlying areas, which is why you tend to see small-time crime in the suburban and rural news.

  13. April 1, 2014 at 1:52 pm Ted Farley responds:

    I’m not sure what a publicly posted mug shot really accomplishes. These women’s lives are a cocoon of shame, hurt, and addiction. It feels like more social cannibalism. Prostitution is a very old dare I say occupation. It will never go away, as we are country that more than ever in our history sexualizes everything.

  14. April 2, 2014 at 3:53 pm Kathy C. responds:

    Police blotters and mugshot releases serve a dual purpose. They inform the community about what’s going on, and they provide a warning to others about what awaits if they choose that path. The thought of having one’s name in the paper is a deterrent.

    Prostitution is a topic that many don’t consider at all, but among those who do concern themselves with it, it is hotly debated. On one hand you have a rescue industry suggesting that behind most every prostitute, there’s some pimp or international mafia ring pressing her into service. At the other end there are sex worker unions telling us that most choose sex work of their own volition because they see it as the best option among a limited range of economic opportunities.

    For street-level and Backpage-caliber prostitutes in our region, I think the most-often reality is that their only pimps are crack and heroin. For these women, I like the diversion program approach mentioned in the linked article. Rather than having the legal system be a revolving door which does little to deter re-offending, I would like to see a minimum one-year program that requires participants to undertake and complete drug treatment (if applicable), establish one year of clean time from illegal drugs as determined by random drug screens, obtain a high-school diploma or GED, and obtain above-board full-time employment or be enrolled in full-time study in order to graduate. A problem however is that, unlike most charges normally shunted to DWI/drug diversion programs, prostitution is usually punishable by only a three month jail term, perhaps not a big enough stick to motivate this degree of life change.

    • April 3, 2014 at 1:46 pm dew4794 responds:

      @ Kathy, you forgot to mention that a huge issue with prostitutes is Mental Illness. They are using street drugs to treat their mental conditions, sexual trauma as children, huge family neglect, personality disorder, psychosis, etc. And the last place they end up is the criminal justice system or with the funeral industry.

  15. April 29, 2014 at 6:57 pm Concerned citizen responds:

    I think the arrest of the prostitutes in social media is a terrible thing to do. What about being innocent until proven guilty?

    I know for a fact that one of the people focused on social media in the most recent undercover prostitution sting was never arrested and in fact, was never even there! Yet it was reported that this person was there, was arrested, picture posted on all the social media outlets, address published in the paper and on their web site, name repeated over and over on local news, and on local radio when in fact this person was never even charged! How fair is that? Isn’t that even more of a crime? How does something like that even happen?

  16. October 6, 2014 at 2:54 pm Jessica Davis responds:

    Victim-less crimes are governments attempt at social engineering. We founded our country on Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of happiness. Individuals choose this profession are victims of nothing more than a judgmental society who is vested in others activities and is not content in to mind their own business. I would hope that the administration would legalize prostitution or professional companion artist.

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